Bread and Tulips
(Pane e Tulipani)

foreign films

Bread and Tulips (Pane e Tulipani)
Made in: Italy
Language: Italian
Director: Silvio Soldini
Starring: Licia Maglietta, Bruno Ganz, Antonio Catania, Marina Massironi, Felice Andreasi, Vitalba Andrea, Tatiana Lepore, Giuseppe Battiston
Year: 2000

Synopsis: While vacationing with her two children and cheating husband, Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta) gets left behind at a rest stop by her bus tour group. A devoted housewife and mother, Rosalba gets tired of waiting for her family and decides to hitchhike back to her hometown of Pescara.

But a sudden, refreshing sense of freedom motivates her to take a detour to Venice instead. While there, she meets Fernando (Bruno Ganz), a depressed but kind Icelandic waiter and becomes his house guest. Later she finds work at a floral shop owned by cranky Fermo (Felice Andreasi) and befriends her earthy, hippie-ish neighbor Grazia (Marina Massironi) who's a massage therapist.

Although enjoying her "private vacation," Rosalba is conflicted between returning to her boring life in Pescara and enjoying her new-found freedom. Things get a little complicated when her husband Mimmo (Antonio Catania) sends Constantino (Giuseppe Battiston), one of his company employees, to play detective and track her down.

The Good: Relaxing, harmless, and straightforward, Bread and Tulips is a consistently, although only mildly, entertaining foreign film containing many universal themes and solid characters.

Licia Maglietta is a likeable protagonist, and Bruno Ganz gives a subtle but commendable performance. The introduction of Giuseppe Battiston in the second half is pretty fun, and the exchanges he has with his mother, although short, are very amusing.

The Bad: Perhaps it's because I've seen so many edgier international movies lately, but my initial reaction to Bread and Tulips was that it's a bit bland. The sequence of events unfold at a very even pace, and there were a few instances when some sharp emotional dynamism could have made things better.

For instance, Rosalba's decision to suddenly head to Venice simply seems like something for the character to do, and the sense of rebellion that we know she's supposed to be feeling doesn't seem to be expressed very well. And psychologically, Maglietta's character isn't sufficiently built-up in the beginning to make her Venice detour believable.

And although I won't give the ending away, Rosalba's way too patient with her smart-ass kids, and the sequence of events leading up to the conclusion are not very realistic at all.

Who would like this movie: Bread and Tulips is okay. Overall it works, and it's a positive, clean movie that other foreign film directors could have easily made more cynical and dark. However, there are several key elements that just don't seem believable enough to make this a satisfying viewing experience.

I'd recommend this film for audiences above the 18-35 demographic, but I can't say you'll be missing much if you don't see it at all.

(2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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